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In Custody Novel by Anita Desai: Deven Custodian of Urdu

In Custody Novel Review:

He still considers him a god and himself his disciple.
In Custody Novel

Today, we will discuss a Novel known as "In Custody" written by Anita Desai.  In Custody by Anita Desai is a novel about an Urdu poet in his declining years. It was shortlisted for a Booker prize as well. It deals with several themes and motifs. 

But the most prominent one out of all of them is that of language and how languages die a slow death over time when people stop caring about them. It draws a parallel between Urdu and Hindi juxtaposed with a change in cultural dynamics. 

In Custody deals with a protagonist who has great respect for the Urdu language and is absolutely devoted to a great Urdu poet. The poet might have lost all his talents due to his old age and being close to death, but that still does not diminish his respect for the aged bard. He still considers him a god and himself his disciple. 

He is forced to teach Hindi as a professor because he won’t earn much with Urdu as not many speak the language in Mirpore anymore and neither is it respected much. Herein lies his troubles as he continually beats himself up over this fact and is also made fun of by people that if he loves Urdu so much, why is he teaching Hindi.

šŸ’„Must Know This:

In the closing pages of the novel, Deven comes to a new realization of the reality of the once great poet. He now no longer idolizes or blindly worships him. He is familiarized by his reality and that even though Nur might have been a great poet once, his days are now clearly over. 

And that just because his poetry is so good, the man now left behind is a shell of the man who wrote them. He sees the man as what he is now. Old, out of his senses and making senile demands out of him. 

He has an epiphany, that he had thought he was taking Nur’s poetry into safe custody but had not realized that if he was to be the custodian of Nur’s verse, Nur himself would become his custodian and place him in custody too. He realizes that this can play out two ways; he could either consider this an unendurable burden or a shining honor, but that whatever he chose, it would demand equal strength from him. 

He has a vision of Nur’s funeral and he muses about whether his death would see this connection, this relation between the end or would it still remain? All through the book, Deven is portrayed as a timorous and craven character who makes excuses to keep from taking risks in life. 

But he does have this moment of realization, that even though he finds himself caught in a trap, jailed even, it is just physically so. He realities that he is offered an out. By entering Nur’s poetry, his verse, he has been handed an out. And that he has been handed great freedom. And that is being out of custody, that is a great reward that he has won. 

He is now in the custody of both Nur’s verse and his friendship and by extension, the Urdu language. He realizes that Nur will soon be dead, but his verse will still remain behind. His poetry will still be alive and Deven is now the custodian of that poetry and it is his goal, to keep that verse and that language alive. 

He feels that he has been given a great goal in life, he can finally do something worthwhile in his life and something that he can be proud of. Now that he is out of custody, he has become a new custodian. 

And he is proud of that. through the book, he finds himself trapped under the unshakeable burden of every decision he takes regarding Nur and the task Murad sets him.

 But at last, he thinks of Nur’s poetry being read and thinks that he had accepted the gift of Nur’s poetry and that this makes him custodian to his very soul and spirit. 

He cannot deny that this is a great distinction and finally accepts the burden it places upon him, but not out of reluctance or dread as he previously would have done. He has now stopped running from his problems and runs home to instead, face them headlong. 

The book sees the slow death of false friendship and the painful birth of a true one. 

Murad’s appalling behavior all but ruins Deven and he is left to finally question his friendship with the man but by the end of the book, since he has accepted the custodianship of Nur and his verse, he realizes that another, much deeper friendship has been born here, between the two of them as a result of him accepting custody of Nur’s verse.

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šŸ’¬Contributed by: Mansidak Kaur

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